drone flying over land


The Federal Aviation Administration has chosen a consortium of universities that includes Rutgers to test unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones, in the skies over New Jersey. They could soon help with tasks ranging from spotting traffic jams to monitoring crops on farms.

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Rutgers Drone!

Rutgers is part of a consortium of universities that was chosen by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to test unmanned aircraft, commonly known as drones, in the skies over New Jersey. The test sites, which have yet to be determined, should help attract research money and startup companies to the state as businesses vie to develop commercial uses for drones before the FAA opens airspace to unmanned flights to accomplish everything from spotting traffic jams to monitoring crops on farms.

“Unmanned air systems is one of the lead growth areas,” says Thomas Farris, dean of the School of Engineering. Rutgers partnered with Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland on one of the six winning applications. Rutgers and Virginia Tech are part of the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership, which comprises universities as well as government and industry groups that have run limited drone tests.

The Big Picture on Nanotechnology

Rutgers recently unveiled two microscopy suites—instruments that produce nanoscale images that will have an enormous impact on the research behind the disciplines that are trying to solve some of society’s greatest challenges. “Rutgers has become a global leader in advanced nanoscale-materials imaging, bringing to the New Jersey region a new resource for advancing scientific research, educational outreach, and industrial partnership,” said Leonard C. Feldman, the director of the Rutgers Institute for Advanced Materials, Devices, and Nanotechnology (IAMDN) and vice president of Physical Science and Engineering Partnerships. “We have the beginning of a Rutgers imaging institute through IAMDN that will foster international scientific collaboration to have a significant impact on research in biomaterials, cancer and neurology, renewable energy, and telecommunications.”

The microscopes, valued at $5.2 million, are the most advanced devices of their kind in the world, according to Feldman, allowing scientists to see the atomic structure of nanoscale materials. As part of the 2009 Recovery Act, Rutgers received nearly $2 million in grants through the National Science Foundation to create the Scanning Transmission Electron Microscope (STEM) in order to investigate materials that are vital to energy-related applications.

“The ability to visualize atomic-level structure, bonding, and composition is critical to advances in many areas,” says Philip E. Batson, a distinguished research professor in the departments of Physics and Astronomy and Materials Science and Engineering. “This STEM represents a leap ahead in electron spectroscopy capabilities required for the development of nanoscale science.”

Rising to the Challenge

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has given Rutgers $1.5 million to help endow a faculty chair in the highly regarded Department of Philosophy at the School of Arts and Sciences. The gift has been matched by an anonymous donor who had pledged $27 million as part of an Endowed Chair Challenge, which to date has attracted funds to finance 11 new positions, with the goal to bring 18 world-class faculty to Rutgers as part of the Our Rutgers, Our Future fundraising campaign.

Meanwhile, the $3 million George F. Farris Chair in Entrepreneurship was created at the Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick, an endowed faculty position that will improve the school’s effort to provide programs for the next generation of entrepreneurs. The Celia Lipton Farris and Victor W. Farris Foundation contributed $1.5 million, a sum that was matched, once again, by the anonymous donor who pledged the $27 million. George Farris was a faculty member at the school for 31 years, retiring in 2011.

“Rutgers Business School aims to recruit an outstanding scholar who combines intellectual leadership in the study of entrepreneurship ecosystems with on-the-ground experience in leading high-tech startup communities,” said Glenn Schafer, the school’s dean. The university recently unveiled a comprehensive strategic plan to serve as a guide for Rutgers in the years to come. Among the goals is to attract 150 new faculty members.

The John E. Morgan Foundation has given a $1.5 million challenge grant to help the Rutgers University–Camden Community Leadership Center continue its transformation of early-childhood education in Camden and elsewhere. When the grant is completed, the John S. and James L. Knight Early Learning Research Academy (ELRA) at Rutgers–Camden, a state-of-the-art service and research unit that provides early childhood education to 126 infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in Camden, will establish a $3 million endowment ($1.5 million from the Morgan Foundation and $1.5 million from other donors) to support Rutgers programs for children, from infancy to high school. The grant accelerates the research center’s long-term goal of providing cognitive and social development support for children, from birth through high school and beyond. ELRA represents the start of a birth-to-college educational pipeline that aligns the work of ELRA with LEAP (Leadership, Education, and Partnership) Academy University Charter High School, Rutgers, and other universities.